Feb
26

BIOMIMETICS Copying The Creator

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God created the mule, and told him, “You will be a mule, working constantly from dusk to dawn, carrying heavy loads on your back.  You will eat grass and lack intelligence.  You will live for 50 years.”  The mule answered, “To live like this for 50 years is too much. Please, give me no more than 20.”  And it was so.  Then God created the dog and told him, “You will hold vigilance over the dwellings of man, to whom you will be his greatest companion. You will eat his table scraps and live for 25 years.”    And the dog responded, “Lord, to live 25 years as a dog like that is too much. Please, no more than 10 years.”  And it was so.  God then created the monkey, and told him, “You are monkey.  You shall swing from tree to tree, acting like an idiot. You will be funny, and you shall live for 20 years.”  And the monkey responded, “Lord, to live 20 years as the clown of the world is too much. Please, Lord, give me no more than 10 years.” And it was so.  Finally, God created Man and told him, “You are man, the only rational being that walks the earth. You will use your intelligence to have mastery over the creatures of the world. You will dominate the earth and live for 20 years.”  And the man responded, “Lord , to be man for only 20 years is too little.  Please, Lord, give me the 20 years the mule refused, the 15 years the dog refused, and the 10 years the monkey rejected.”  And it was so.
And so God made man to live 20 years as a man, then marry and live 20 years like a mule working and carrying heavy loads on his back.  Then, he is to have children and live 15 years as a dog, guarding his house and eating the leftovers after they empty the pantry.  Then, in his old age, to live10 years as a monkey, acting like an idiot to amuse his grandchildren.  And it is so.

Biomimetics (bi-o-mi-met-ic) is defined as follows: “The imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the express purpose of solving complex human problems.”  Or to put it simply, the creature copying the creator. Here are a few examples.

Super Trains – Japan is renowned for the incredible speed and efficiency of its trains. However, with speeds in excess of 300km/h, bullet trains presented a problem in creating huge sonic booms every time they emerged from a tunnel. This, an unfortunate result of changing air pressures, a noise pollution greatly disturbing local residents and placed pressure on engineers to address the problem.  Now, it just so happened that the chief engineer is a fishing fanatic.  And one day he noticed that the kingfisher is a master at traveling between air and water with hardly a ripple resulting.  So he re-designed the bullet train with a long beak-shaped nose  like unto the kingfisher significantly reducing the noise level, but also using 15% less electricity and going 10% faster than before.

Bird Glass – A bird’s best friend – that’s not normally said about spiders. But the orb weaver has a unique “stay away” warning system that has inspired new technology to save birds’ lives.  Have you ever heard the thump of a confused bird hitting a window? It is estimated that 100 million birds are killed each year when they fly directly into window glass. Sometimes they can’t see the glass panes that are nearly invisible to them, or they get confused by reflections of nearby trees, sky, or the birds themselves. To address this problem, researchers have turned to an unusual corner of nature: spider webs.  Spiders, such as the orb weaver – whose spoke-wheel webs appear frequently in yards and woods – construct their webs with a silk that reflects ultraviolet light. Our eyes can’t see ultraviolet light, but many insects and birds do. The UV-reflecting property of spider silk appears to serve two purposes. First, the ultraviolet image may attract insects to the web like a neon advertising sign. Some spiders actually arrange the UV-reflective coating on their webs with flower-like patterns to draw in and trap pollinating insects.  A second web purpose, of particular interest here, is to warn birds to avoid striking the web and interfering with the spider’s efforts to capture small prey.  Now the Arnold Glass Company has produced a bird-friendly glass that has a cris-cross pattern of UV-reflecting stripes. This film coating is invisible to people, but readily seen by birds.

Velcro Hooks – George de Mistral was inspired to invent Velcro after noticing how easy it was for burrs to stick to his dog’s hair. Upon studying them under a microscope, he noticed the simple design of tiny hooks at the end of the burr’s spines. These were able to catch anything with a loop, such as fur and fabric, and he went on to replicate this synthetically. His two-part velcro fastening system uses a strip of loosely looping nylon opposite a strip of tiny hooks, and has since been prolific in its range of applications and popularity.

Long is the list of biomimetics including: lobster’s eyes and x-ray machines that see through steel, termite hills and buildings heated and cooled without fossil fuels, fireflies and LED headlights, just to name a few.  The bottom line?  It’s a good thing God didn’t copyright His designs, or we would be living in the stone age.